Alice Ostapjuk’s ethereal brand of sophisticated pop will intrigue your ears and leave shivers running down your spine. Though often feisty and tinged with frustration, her carefully crafted songs reveal an endearing honesty and beautiful fragility. Alice’s distinctive voice draws comparisons to Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper, as she possesses the power to haunt and thrill, lull or lure. Boasting an undeniable talent for singing combined with a knack for evocative melodies, Alice is a truly unforgettable act, and ever more so since the addition of her backing band, who complement her songwriting with powerful bass lines, precise drumming and howling guitar parts. Let them captivate you.
We arranged to meet at the National Railway Museum, Alice was running late as the movie that explained all about The Mallard was running over owing to a technical failure. Prior to her recounting all of the interesting facts about said Pacific Steam Locomotive, we jumped in with some questions, here's how it went....
Welcome Alice, please introduce the band and your music in one sentence....
Do you know how hard this is?! A bunch of nutters (sorry guys!) creating pop with an eerie twist.
You have donated ‘Watch Your Step’ to a charity album, can you inform us of the charity and why you chose that song?
Sure! The Charity is the North & West Yorkshire Association for Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus. I really wanted to get on board with this release because I think it’s really important to help smaller charities as well as the bigger ones that we all know. It was also supposed that I had spina bifida before I was born, which luckily healed, all I’ve been left with is a birth mark on the bottom of my back so it’s nice to help a charity which gives so much to others who weren’t fortunate enough to have the lucky escape that I did. As for the song choice, I chose ‘Watch Your Step’ because it’s such good fun!
‘Never Say Never’ (EP) was released in 2013, how has this been received?
Pretty well, I think. We gained a bit more air play with the recordings, a few reviews, features in little music magazines and stuff, which was really nice. I really just felt like we owed it to the people who follow us closely to get some more material recorded as I’m so lazy with recording songs!
Where did you record this and why did you choose this venue?
We recorded the EP in various places actually – random rehearsal rooms, Oz’s lounge and One&Other’s office as they have a really nice acoustic downstairs in there believe it or not! I just decided that I wanted this release to be entirely DIY so we really could be proud of the finished product as it was entirely our own work.
Who designed the artwork for your EP?
My good friend Emma Siu Mae Chu (ye, you’ve got to have a cool name to hang around with me) designed the artwork. I came up with the initial concept, inspired by a picture that my sister, Evie, had taken of me for a photography project. Then Emma worked her creative genius on it all and that’s how the artwork was born, in a nut shell. You can see more of Emma’s awesome artwork here: www.emmasiumaechu.com
How and when did you decide that you wanted to be in a band?
Funnily enough I initially tried my best not to be in a band as I’d found it too hard in my mid-teens to find other musicians as dedicated as I was to being in a band. However, whilst recording my first EP as a solo artist, I realised that other band members are pretty important to help orchestrate my ideas for songs more fully. So in July 2011 the backing band was born – though we have entirely different members to that initial backing band line up these days.
What is the best advice you ever received and who was it from?
I was invited along to the first ever BBC Introducing Musician’s Masterclass at Abbey Road Studios, where I met Tom Robinson and he said if you’re ever suffering from major writer’s block, just keep on writing (even if you’re just spouting utter rubbish) until all the crap comes out and eventually the creative juices will starting flowing again. I promise it works!
What was your process in getting a backing band?
Because the backing band line up has changed so often so far, there hasn’t really been a process. I usually just decide what instruments are needed at that particular time then ask friends of friends. We’re playing with a harpist from my university quite a bit at the moment and that’s been really fun so be sure to catch her with us before she heads home to Ireland at the end of the summer.
Many good bands are based in York, such as Fox North Coalition and Honey Tone Cody, what is it about York that produces good music?
I like to think it’s the fact that no one from outside of York expects the York music scene to be bursting with as much talent as it is and we’re just doing our best at showing them what they’re missing.
How has social media aided your music?
Social media allows me to annoy the people who follow my music more often than if it didn’t exist.
What is your favourite book and the last book you read?
It’s got to be Alice in Wonderland – sorry – my mum got me a great edition full of fantastic illustrations when I was like 8. And also, embarrassingly, the last book I read was How to Hide a Lion by Rachel Stephens. I was looking for a good book to buy my 21 month old niece... It’s actually a great children’s book about some towns’ people accepting a lion into their community though and the pictures are awesome, I love the lion too much.
Favourite lyric you have ever heard?
Cyndi Lauper inspired me to start taking my singing more seriously when I sung ‘True Colours’ in primary school. She still inspires me now, so I’m going to go with a lyric from True Colours:
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there
I went through a rough patch last year, which saw me stop gigging for a good while, and even though I just liked the sound of the words together when I was 9, I find this lyric pretty touching now.
Do you own a record that you wouldn’t like to admit you have?
I don’t think I do actually – I’m not very easily embarrassed so I’m happy to admit that I own all sorts of stuff from Busted to Shania Twain.
What classic song would you have liked to have recorded and why?
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin and Tammi because my little sister and I bloody love dancing around the kitchen to that one when our university and school work has become all too much for us! And perhaps because Motown was the best era of music ever...
What are your plans for 2014?
To get our single ‘War Cry’ out there and to gig, gig, gig and gig some more!
We let Alice rattle on for over twenty minutes filling us in on all of the facts about The Mallard, at the end, she conducted a short test, we failed miserably but to lighten the mood, we thought we'd throw in some quick fire questions....
Coffee or Tea? Tea
Coke or Pepsi? Coke
Drum machine or the real deal? The Real Deal because Oz would punch me if I said otherwise.
Mac or PC? PC all the way!
Meryl Streep or Jennifer Lawrence? Meryl Streep of course, though I must admit I don’t know who Jennifer is.
Fry up or Sunday roast? Sunday Roast.
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)? Ozzy
CD or Vinyl? CD
Car or Motorbike? Car because other road users aren’t aware enough of bikes :(
Acoustic or electric? Arghhh! I’m so torn – I’m swaying towards electric as I just got one for my birthday....red of course!
Shower or Bath? Bath – when it becomes more practical to shave my legs in a shower then I’ll swap but for now, hear me ladies, showers are too hard to negotiate!
Tattoos or Piercings? Piercings
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino? Robert De Niro, again, I don’t know who the other is.
God or Google? GOOGLE!!!
17th April – The Woolpack (solo)
7th May – Fibbers (with band) supporting We Are Evergreen
18th May – Fulford Arms
4th July – The Duchess – Headline show
Musicmuso would like to thank Alice for sparing her time to tell us about The Mallard and also for taking time to answer our questions, we wish her all the best for the future and look forward to seeing her play live when she ventures South to sunny Devon.